The Democratic super PAC that has spent more than $1 million airing ads attacking Republican US Senate candidate Ron Hanks is targeting his primary rival, Joe O’Dea, in a new TV ad debuting Thursday.
The 30-second ad highlights O’Dea’s history of political donations to Democratic candidates — including US Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democrat O’Dea is trying to unseat — and notes the construction company owner’s support for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package signed last year by President Joe Biden.
Republicans have blasted the ad campaign as unfair meddling in Colorado’s GOP primary, but a spokesperson for the Democratic group says it’s attempting to educate state voters about the Republicans hoping to represent them.
“Politician Joe O’Dea is not who he says he is,” the narrator of the ad says.
The ad describes O’Dea’s campaign donation to Bennet campaign in 2010 and adds that O’Dea also contributed to Colorado’s junior senator, then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, ahead of the Democrat’s 2014 reelection campaign, after Hickenlooper signed controversial gun-control legislation.
“No way, O’Dea,” the narrator concludes. “Colorado deserves a straight shooter.”
Colorado Politics was first to report O’Dea’s contributions to Democratic candidates, including $500 donations to Bennet and Hickenlooper, and donations to Bill Ritter and Cary Kennedy when the Democrats were running for governor and state treasurer, respectively.
A campaign spokesperson told Colorado Politics that O’Dea gave Bennet a chance to live up to his pledge to bring an outsider’s perspective to Washington but over time soured on what he characterized as the rigid incumbent partisan approach.
Paid for by a recently formed committee called Democratic Colorado, the new ad joins the PAC’s first ad — which blasts Hanks, a first-term state lawmaker, as “too conservative for Colorado” — in heavy rotation statewide on broadcast and cable TV. The ad aimed at Hanks began running last week as Colorado voters began receiving primary ballots in the mail.
“We are an organization committed to ensuring that Colorado doesn’t elect a Republican to the US Senate,” Alvina Vasquez, the PAC’s, told Colorado Politics.
“Both GOP candidates are totally out of step with our values and voters who deserve to know the truth about who’s running to represent them. Our ad exposes Joe O’Dea’s hypocrisy as a phony who says one thing but does another, and Coloradans can’t trust him to fight for their interests.”
Pointing to historically high gas prices and surging, O’Dea campaign spokesman Zack Roday suggested to Colorado Politics that the ads were meant to distract voters from Bennet’s alignment with an unpopular President Joe Biden and Democratic polices.
“Their desperation and lust for power is still no excuse for Democrats pouring millions to support Ron Hanks,” Roday said via text message, noting that Hanks voted in the legislature against a bill to make it illegal for teachers to engage in sexual activity with 18 -year-old students.
Added Roday: “Voters are smart, they will not fall for the Democrats’ dangerous and illegal ploy to interfere in the GOP primary.”
According to media buyers, the PAC’s spending on the ads could top $2 million by the time ballots are due on June 28.
The wealthy O’Dea has poured at least $630,000 into his own campaign and has been on the air with radio and TV advertising for brief periods since announcing his run last fall. Hanks, who raised less than $60,000 through the end of the year’s first quarter, has yet to spend heavily on advertising.
Another state-level committee is running similar ads calling Republican Greg Lopez “too conservative,” citing the gubernatorial candidate’s positions on abortion and gun control. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis will face the winner of the primary between Lopez and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl.
Former Republican Gov. Bill Owens characterized the Democrats’ ad campaign as an attempt to boost “second-tier” Republicans by appealing to conservative GOP primary voters, potentially boosting candidates who are easier to beat in November.
“This is wrong in a democracy,” Owens told Colorado Politics. “This is putting your thumb on the scales just because they have big money and no record to run on. All they have is money.”